Joe Belan Targets 2021 For Saskatchewan CPL Expansion Club
When we sat down with retired player and current entrepreneur Joe Belan, he indicated that there was no set time limit for has Saskatchewan-based Canadian Premier League venture: with the SK Summer Soccer Series providing a hands-on litmus test to gauge the sustainability of establishing a club in the province, he wanted to make sure his eventual CPL club will launch on stable ground – and he said he was prepared to wait to do so.
Speaking with Duane Rollins on the Soccer Today podcast, Belan revealed that his ownership group is now targeting 2021 as the year they’d like to establish a Canadian Premier League club in the province of Saskatchewan. Given that SK Selects coach Bryce Chapman had already talked about trying to set up a match against CPL opposition for next year’s SK Summer Soccer Series, a 2020 expansion date wasn’t ultimately expected.
Belan revealed that he plans to extend the 2020 SK Summer Soccer Series to about 7 or 8 matches, more than doubling the inaugural edition’s three games against the Calgary Foothills, Vancouver Whitecaps U-23s, and Toronto FC II. This will help the SK Selects get a feel for what a more complete season of football feels like, with the CPL’s spring season having run for ten matches, from late April to Canada Day.
Belan confirmed earlier with Northern Tribune that most of the SK Selects will be returning to their respective U SPORTS teams after the series concludes. Since the SK Selects aren’t a professional team (yet), their eligibility for U SPORTS action was not impacted by the SK Summer Soccer Series.
All of the SK Summer Soccer Series games so far have taken place at SMF Field, which has a total capacity of 3,950. When Belan forms a Canadian Premier League club, he’d like to be the primary tenant, and that means that a new home ground will need to be established. Belan is hoping to establish a new stadium in Prarieland Park, which means the potential expansion club will be located in Saskatoon.
It also means that things haven’t changed much since our chat with Belan back in early April:
Prairielands lends itself creating a more interesting atmosphere. I’d say at the moment, Prairieland would be our primary choice. We think that SMF is a good test facility, but it’s really suited for minor football. It’s got very limited availability, it’s used primarily for minor football, and we’re very grateful that we’re being allowed to use this facility over the course of the summer, but even scheduling is a bit of a challenge because there’s just not that many available dates.Joe Belan
It’s a location that makes a lot of sense: the stadium would be located near downtown Saskatoon, which makes attending games much easier for locals (just ask fans of the Halifax Wanderers). It also allows for the SK Selects to offer extra promotions to draw in crowds, such as free entrance to the Saskatoon Ex with the purchase of a target.
It looks like the 3,000+ crowds that have been attended the SK Selects matches have been enough to show Joe Belan and the rest of the ownership group that there’s certainly good potential for a Canadian Premier League club in the province. League commissioner David Clanachan is hoping for at least one expansion club in 2020, since the likes of Saskatoon and Montreal are both looking like they’ll be two seasons away.
Beyond the two frontrunners mentioned above, Clanachan has indicated that there are a few other ownership groups who have progressed at a faster rather than the rest of the interested parties. Alex Bunbury had said that he expects a Quebec City CPL expansion team to be announced in the near future, while Clanachan has continued to offer an olive branch to the Ottawa Fury, though the club remains hesitant about switching leagues once again.
At the end of the day, it looks like Saskatoon is hungry for professional soccer, and Joe Belan seems like the right man to give the people what they want. Like any good entrepreneur, he knows that he needs to launch the project from a position of stability, which echoes Pacific FC CEO Rob Friend’s recent comments that it takes time to find the right suitors as opposed to the fastest.
Saskatoon seems like a shoe-in to host a Canadian Premier League club, and Joe Belan’s ownership group is doing things the right way to make it happen. It’s just going to take time to get there.
Source: Duane Rollins (via Twitter)
It seems one of the biggest problems for the proposed clubs is finding a suitable venue, even on a short-term basis. At least Joe Belan has a couple of options-SMF field and University of Sakatchewan-that could be available while he gets something permanent. If the Montreal area team locates in Laval, where do they play? The university stadia are all in Montreal (and on the “other side of town”). That means you have to have your permanent home at least partially constructed before staring play. that’s one more start-up cost to deal with